How to look like Hercules? It’s all about eating…
I’m sure that you have all heard about, and maybe seen Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s new movie, Hercules. There was a pretty long and extensive marketing campaign to drum up interest before release, including Johnson himself posting regular training videos, Instagram photos and tweets showing his preparation for the role.
Now I was a fan of The Rock during my WWF wrestling phase and am a fan of Dwayne Johnson in his current guise as Hollywood action hero. Whatever you want to say about action films I think he makes a nice change from the largely monosyllabic Arnie and Vin Diesel types; I think he can actually act and you can’t deny he has presence.
What I mean is I am not trying to target Dwayne Johnson or knock him specifically, rather I want to use him and his latest outing as an example of how the whole muscle building myth circus goes round and round, with high profile figures providing the faces and figureheads.
I found this clip on YouTube (among the many interviews, talk shows and other promotional materials about Dwayne Johnson’s training and eating plan to get ready for the role). On the table is what Johnson says he ate everyday for 6 months to get in shape to play the title role.
I can’t find any stats about how much weight he put on but if you’ve seen the film, or the images you can see that he’s clearly in phenomenal shape; extremely muscular and lean, in fact looking larger and in better shape than in his wrestling days.
Here’s a picture from his Twitter
Image from Dwayne Johnson Twitter
Just like any film where the actor has to get into extreme shape for a role, there is a lot of media focus on how they trained, what they ate, how they dieted etc. and obviously this film was no exception; in fact because of Johnson’s wrestling history, action man status, and larger than life reputation the physical aspect of all his films are heavily used as a focus point for marketing and media.
If you search around you’ll find plenty of talk show interviews or interviews with fitness magazines where Johnson emphasises the amount of eating, training and sleeping it took for his 6 month preparation to turn his not inconsiderable starting physique into one that was worthy of representing a demi-god on screen.
So is training intense and eating all that food everyday enough?
If you have read my post on How much muscle can you gain naturally? you’ll have seen that according to extensive studies of drug tested champion natural bodybuilders the genetic maximum for muscle growth is a lot lower than you would expect from the Men’s Health promises of 8-10 lbs of muscle in 8 weeks.
I obviously don’t know Johnson’s ankle and wrist measurements but if we give him a pretty generous 9″ wrist and 10″ ankle (pretty monstrous) at his 6’4″ height a genetically premium weight trainer of these measurements should have an absolute maximum weight at 10% body fat of 243 lbs (110 kgs or 17.4 stone).
From various reports from his other films such as Pain & Gain Johnson walks around at around the 260 lbs mark (117.8 kgs or 18.6 stone).
Remember, the calculated figure is derived from the average of a pool of natural bodybuilders who by the way of being champions have the best genetics for muscle building, and some have question marks about whether they are truly lifetime drug-free.
Based on this alone there is more than a little doubt about Johnson’s natural status.
Muscle quality and age also point in one direction
Ok, so I don’t know Johnson’s actual weight or his wrist and ankle size, maybe he is a genetic anomaly. However one huge factor counts against his being natural to prepare for this film; his age.
As you may or may not know testosterone, the muscle building and maintaining hormone peaks when a man is in his late twenties before going downhill gradually. That’s why as men get older they tend to get fatter, lose muscle mass, and shrink in stature. It is natural, it will happen to all of us.
We also know that as a natural trainer your first year of training is the one where you make the largest gains; after the first few years your gains will slow and you will struggle to put on each extra pound of real muscle.
So if you are advanced and have been training for a long time you simply cannot make huge leaps in muscle gain or strength; if you see this in a trainer who has been at it for years it is one of the sure signs he or she has started ‘assisting’ their training with steroids.
Johnson has trained for almost his entire life; he entered wrestling at 25 and was already huge (and we don’t have to even get into the discussion of how natural wrestlers are), and has since then clearly and vocally been living a lifestyle of the iron.
Shouldn’t his best most muscular years have been when he was in wrestling, aged 25-30? Strangely he is actually in better shape now, in terms of muscle mass and leanness in his 4os.
Amazing, considering his testosterone level, and therefore his ability to gain and maintain muscle, should be considerably less than when he was 28-30.
Don’t be fooled
Again, I’m not trying to target Dwayne Johnson, and I understand he has reasons not to talk about the obvious extras he’s doing to get in shape. For one steroids are illegal in the USA and so admitting to their use would not be a great career move. Two, steroids have such a bad negative public image that it wouldn’t be good for his professional image or popularity.
My point is don’t be misled. Dwayne Johnson may not be able to be open because of the reasons above but that suits the supplement companies down to the ground. The less said about drugs, the more about training hard and eating huge to get huge the better; the more powders and ‘anabolics 3000 whey protein as used by The Rock in Hercules!’ sold.
Eating like that is not going to make you huge; it will make you fat because food intake is not the determinant in muscle size it is hormones, which we have calculated don’t give you that much potential.
But if you don’t believe me, try eating like Hercules for a few weeks and start posting your progress on Instagram…